The streets are empty but hospitals in London are filling up to the extent that health officials describe the registration of new cases as a ‘continuous tsunami’, while the UK-wide deaths mounted to 463 and 9,529 cases – 3,249 of them in London.
A new 4,000-bed hospital is coming up near Canary Wharf in east London in the ExCel Centre, called the NHS Nightingale Hospital, to cope with the crisis. Military personnel are involved in setting it up, besides delivering crucial protection equipment to hospitals across the UK.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents heads of NHS hospital trusts, said on Thursday that hospitals were also grappling with increasing percentage of medical staff reporting sick or isolating due to symptoms of coronavirus.
He told the BBC: “They are struggling with the explosion of demand in seriously ill patients. They are saying it’s the number arriving and the speed with which they are arriving and how ill they are. They talk about wave after wave after wave”.
“The words that are used to me are that it’s a continuous tsunami…The CEOs are concerned that all that extra capacity is now being used up very, very quickly. We’ve got the surge capacity at the ExCel Centre but this is filling up very quickly.”
As the UK’s health infrastructure and personnel combat the invisible enemy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his colleagues announced that over 5 lakh people had volunteered to help with non-medicals tasks. Thousands of retired doctors, nurses have also re-joined the NHS.
Johnson said: “When we launched the appeal (for volunteers) we hoped to get 250,000 over a few days. But I can tell you that in just 24 hours 405,000 people have responded to the call. They will be driving medicines from pharmacies to patients”.
“They will be bringing patients home from hospital. Very importantly they’ll be making regular phone calls to check on and support people who are staying on their own at home. And they will be absolutely crucial in the fight against this virus”.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who, last week announced a multi-billion pound package and the government picking up 80 per cent of the private sector’s wage bill, was due on Thursday to reveal more financial support for the self-employed.
The UK parliament closed on Wednesday night after passing legislation arming the government with more powers to deal with the pandemic.